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RPS photography course at Mill Dene Gardens


Mill Dene Gardens in Autumn

Mill Dene Gardens in Autumn

After the success of the flower photography course Jason Ingram and I ran last May with the Royal Photographic Society, the follow up was held last weekend. This time it was for two days,  with detailed assessments and plenty of time for practical experience in the beautiful gardens at Mill Dene, in the Cotswolds.

Photography student at Mill Dene gardens

Photography student at Mill Dene gardens, June 2011

Again we had a full house with 10 students who all appeared to enjoy themselves, despite the fact that at 6am the expected beautiful morning light was, in fact, rain! Plan B came into play and a daylight studio session was held instead.

Our next planned course will be a one day event at Batsford Arboretum on 30th October 2011, photographing the beautiful Autumn colour in the extensive grounds.

Acer at Batsford Arboretum

Acer at Batsford Arboretum, Autumn 2010

What is wrong with my camera, the prints are all blurry?

8 years, 9 months ago photography 0

The most frequent question I get asked as a photographer is, “What camera should I buy?” It is a very difficult question, so please have sympathy. There are so many things that can effect the answer. The biggest problem is that I, like most professional photographers, have very specific experience with one or two current camera models. I don’t use Nikon DSLR’s – not through any particular dislike. It’s just that I have a full set of Canon lenses, so switching to Nikon is uneconomic. It’s as simple as that. I occasionally use a Canon compact for holiday snaps, so I know even less about compacts. Except that the Lumix range of cameras is very good. Technically and as examples of industrial design – male jewellery and all that, I want one!

I remember vividly struggling to make sense of anything when I first got into photography, so it’s always flattering to be asked to help or give advice to friends and colleagues. I’m always happy to talk shop. Just try stopping me. I’ll discuss my favourite photographers, darkroom techniques, 19th Century print processes, even reciprocity law failure. But a warning – just pause for a moment and take a deep breath before asking, “What’s wrong with my camera, the prints are all blurry?” Clean the lens, be sure you’re not waving the camera like a flag when you press the shutter, and for those with autofocus lenses, do make sure that little button on the side of the lens is switched on. OK? Then I might be able to help!

And never tell me your camera doesn’t work without checking the batteries first – and then ask, “Have you got any spare batteries!”

Gardeners’ Question Time Christmas broadcast

8 years, 11 months ago Gardens, news, People 4

Eric Robson at the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Eric Robson at the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

I’ve listened to BBC Gardeners’ Question Time for years, so when recently asked by Gardeners’ World Magazine to photograph the Christmas recording, I really looked forward to a behind the scenes view of how the show was put together. It was also the first time they had all panelists together for one broadcast.

Gardeners' Question Time panelists during a briefing before recording the 2010 Christmas programme

Gardeners' Question Time panelists during a briefing before recording the 2010 Christmas programme

Briefing before the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Briefing before the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording, with Matt Biggs and Bob Flowerdew in the foreground

The production company’s office is located in a small side road near Old Street Tube station, and like many London streets, the building numbering is a bit haphazard.  Whilst checking the address on my phone, I was approached by a very nice man who asked me, “Are you looking for something else.” Previous experience has taught me not to hang around in situations like this, but strangely, I found myself saying, “Yes.”

“I thought so,” he replied,  “I could see your tripod – you need the first door on the right.”

Somethin’ Else produces several radio programmes including GQT, and is involved with many other media activities too –  so  lost photographers in Brunswick Place must be a regular occurrence.

studio at the Christmas 2010 GardeneThe studio during the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recordingrs' Question Time recording

The studio during the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Some of the GQT team I had photographed before – either for magazine features or for my 43 Gardeners’ Hands project, so I knew them to say hello to – a useful icebreaker when shooting reportage pics. The only problem was the noise of my camera – I think it was expected that the occasional clack of the shutter and mirror would disappear into  the background chatter. Obviously the sound technician was hearing something much closer to a rifle shot, so I had a tap on the shoulder from from Howard Shannon, the producer, who asked me to wait for breaks. I think every whisper could be heard. In all the behind the scenes shoots I did for Top Gear, I was never asked to stop during filming. Perhaps it was just the noisy cars!

Christine Walkden, Bunny Guinness and Chris Beardshaw at the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Christine Walkden, Bunny Guinness and Chris Beardshaw

Chris Beardshaw and Christine Walkden the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Chris Beardshaw and Christine Walkden the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Bob Flowerdew trialing some grapes with Rosie Yeomans at the 2010 Christmas recording of Gardeners' Question Time

Bob Flowerdew trialing some grapes with Rosie Yeomans

Pippa Greenwood and Anne Swithinbank at the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Pippa Greenwood and Anne Swithinbank

What seemed to differ with a TV recording is the speed in which it was done, and how few breaks there were. It was finished in around 90 minutes, with large chunks recorded ‘live’, and not many stops for errors. Eric Robson controlled the discussion with the panelists like a conductor, with answers to questions unscripted, and a queue to respond. There was a genuine air of fun which interesting to watch. The programme will be broadcast on 26th December 2010 at 1400.

Kodachrome retrospective exhibition

8 years, 11 months ago cars, exhibitions, film, news, photography 0

As noted in the post on 30th August, Kodachrome processing finally ceases on 30th December 2010. To celebrate the end of an era, the Association of Photographers are staging an exhibition of work by AOP members taken on this classic film. I heard this week that two of my images have been selected.

BMW 5 Series, shot on Kodachrome 64 for Car Magazine in 1990

BMW 5 Series, shot on Kodachrome 64 for Car Magazine in 1990

Austin Healey rear badge

One of my last Kodachrome images from 1990 - Austin Healey badge taken for the book, The Original Austin Healey, by Bay View Books.

The exhibition runs from 18th January to 10th February 2011. More information, along with travel details, will be available on the AOP website, though as I write, the announcement has not been published.

Eadweard Muybridge, the Muybridgizer and frightening chickens with a torpedo.

9 years, 1 month ago exhibitions, People, photography 2

Last week I visited the new Eadweard Muybridge exhibition at Tate Britain. On leaving the gallery, I saw a note on the foyer wall saying visit the cafe and download the Muybridgizer app for your iPhone. I wanted it. But it wouldn’t download. I went home – no joy. I wanted it more. Several Google searches failed to find it. Did it really exist? Were the staff at the Tate pulling a fast one? Then I tried to convince myself that it probably wouldn’t be any good. This didn’t work. I still wanted it!

Finally, today it was there in the iTunes store. I rushed out with my iPhone to test it. Was it worth the wait? Probably not, but it’s quite addictive and fun to play with. So, my first results:

shadow 1

shadow 1

Shadow 2

Shadow 2

Polishing jewelry

Polishing jewellery

The exhibition was fascinating. There was a wide range of work on display and a lot was new to me. Before his experiments with time sequences, Muybridge made a lot of money in the United States from some of his landscape photography, particularly with stereographs. These were small cards with two photographs of the same subject, each from a slightly different perspective. Seen through a handheld viewer, the photographs were transformed into a 3D image. He also frequently worked with an 18×24 inch plate camera, and it was noted at the time that he cut trees down by the score in the quest for the perfect view! This has crossed my mind on more than one occasion in Richmond Park. It’s not specifically mentioned in the permit terms and conditions, so I assume it’s open to debate with the Parks Police.  Worth a go next time.

My favourite image, by far, was one of the sequences. Not one of the horses or athletes, which had the appearance  of  scientific experiments. Or the lady in a hat, jumping over a stool. Or even model 95, described as a 60 year old ex-athlete, who turned out to be Muybridge himself . ‘Frightening chickens with a torpedo’ must have been one of those tests carried out on a Friday afternoon for the sheer hell of it! It wins hands down for its pointlessness  –  and humour.  Good job Leland Stanford, Muybridge’s patron, had a lot of money. Unfortunately , at the moment, I can’t actually find a link to the image.

The exhibition is at Tate Britain and runs from 8th September 2010 to 16th January 2011

Car Photo – a classic magazine from 1985

9 years, 1 month ago cars, People 7
Car Photo Magazine

Car Photo Magazine, with Ferrari Dino 246GT ©Richard Davies

A couple of weeks ago I was handed a copy of Car Photo by my friend and colleague Ian Dawson. A supplement to Car Magazine in 1985,  it was the benchmark of automotive photography at that  time, and certainly influenced the way I worked. As a rooky photographer on What Car? Magazine, with barely three months under my belt, I remember flicking through a copy in my local WH Smith and thinking bloody hell!

Ian was one of the contributing photographers and he kindly searched out his last spare copy, as mine had disappeared after several house moves. What is great about this magazine is that the photographs could easily be published today in any car title – the only thing that gives them away is the style of the car. Unfortunately for Ian, as I unkindly reminded him,  the new cars of 1985 are now classics and could probably slip into the pages of Classic and Sportscar in 2010.

The contributing photographers were: Colin Curwood, Richard Davies, Ian Dawson, Dougie Firth, Mervyn Franklyn,  Martyn Goddard, Graham Harrison and John Mason. The Art Director was Adam Stinson. Some still work with cars and some have moved on. For any car enthusiast seeing a copy for sale on Ebay or wherever, do buy it – it’s well worth a read.

Lotus Esprit Turbo, shot on Kodachrome 64 ©Ian Dawson

Lotus Esprit Turbo, shot on Kodachrome 64 film ©Ian Dawson

The Lotus Esprit shot above was one of the most important for me, despite it being one of the simplest in the magazine. It made me  realize I had to persuade the editor of my magazine that driving 20 minutes down the M3 to a location at a test track near Chobham,  Surrey, would no longer do. Another favourite is the Citroën Visa pictured below – not a particularly exciting car, just a great photo! Both were taken on Kodachrome 64 (see the posting on the demise of Kodachrome).

Citroen Visa

Citroen Visa, shot on Kodachrome 64 ©Ian Dawson

The last shot is by Richard Davies – a Ferrari 250 GTO. The caption made me laugh when I saw it again –  ‘Two useable frames out of 108 exposures shot.’ I remember thinking at the time that shooting 108 frames to fill one page in a magazine was the height of extravagance. But with hindsight, three rolls of Kodachrome seems modest. Once  I was regularly involved in cover shoots  or big group tests requiring lots of action, I would think nothing of shooting four or five times this amount!

Ferrari 250 GTO on Kodachrome 25 - ©Richard Davies

Ferrari 250 GTO on Kodachrome 25 - ©Richard Davies

As an aside, I thought I’d mention a personal project that Richard  has been involved in for several years. He has been photographing  Russian wooden churches in the bleak north of the country,  documenting the efforts to save and restore these important buildings. A world away from Ferrari’s but well worth a look!

Adventures with an iPhone

9 years, 1 month ago cars, Garden Photography, photography 0

My colleague Jason Ingram recently posted a few photographs on his blog, illustrating the use of his iPhone with an App called the Hipstamatic. This made me curious. Although I have owned several mobile phones with  built in cameras, I had never used them to take photographs. As I nearly always carry a bag full of professional kit, the photographic capabilities of a mobile phone have always been excess to requirements. That is until recently, after I finally succumbed to fashion and bought an iPhone!

On a  family outing to A Garden Party To Make A Difference, staged at three of the grand Royal residences along the Mall in London a few weeks ago, the use of a humble point and shoot camera became essential. The terms and conditions of entry to the event clearly stated that professional equipment, defined as SLR’s with interchangeable lenses, were prohibited – along with weapons, illegal substances and err……..tables and chairs! Enter the iPhone!

A Garden Party To Make A Difference

The Royal laundry still fluttering overhead at Marlborough House. But, true to the theme of the event, it was a good drying day.

A Garden Party To Make A Difference

A very British "keep off the grass" sign - and a typical response.

A Garden Party To Make A Difference exhibit

A wool coffin - kind of bizarre at first glance, but after a moment or two, it might start to make sense. Or not.

Mini Cooper with flowers on the windscreen

And a Mini Cooper in an adjacent street. One of the residents was obviously inspired by the alternative plant containers.

The offering from Apple  is actually quite a capable device – obviously a long way off the normal equipment I use, but nevertheless fun to use for snaps. So, here is another selection taken in Brighton:

food outlet on Brighton sea front

Food offerings on the beach, Brighton

Food outlet in Brighton

Food offerings on Brighton sea front

food outlet on Brighton sea front

Food offerings on the beach, Brighton.

Shop on Brighton Pier

Shop on Brighton Pier

Two people on Brighton pier

Two people I met on Brighton Pier - both without the power of coherent speech.

accidental exposures

Trying out all the buttons - and possibly pressing the wrong one.

The final two shots were taken in Walthamstow,  London, whilst taking a stroll around the  E17 Art Trail.

massag &

massag &.........what? For a fiver, it could be worth a try.

Ford Anglia Deluxe

Ford Anglia Deluxe. I had one of these whist at Sixth Form - they weren't cool then. Maybe this is the reason I haven't got a single photo of my old car - so I couldn't resist this one.

Conclusion –  I’ll definitely use it again. The only problem I had was with the size. I’m used to using large cameras – and everything on the iPhone seems miniscule in comparison. Be prepared for lots of fingers in front of the lens! And could it be used on a normal job? No!

Brighton Sea front

Brighton Sea front, complete with finger.

Exhibition of Pinhole Impressions photographs, Costa de la Luz series – at Los Balcones del Califa, Vejer de la Frontera, Spain – from 19th February 2010

9 years, 9 months ago exhibitions, news, photography 0

At the same time I was taking the Pinhole Impressions monochrome series (see previous post), I was also photographing the dramatic coastline near Cape Trafalgar, Andalucia, in Southern Spain. This time vivid colour images were produced, using the same pinhole camera.

Around 12 images from this set will be exhibited at Los Balcones del Califa, in the hilltop town of Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz. The gallery is situated only a few kilometres from the beautiful Cape Trafalgar and the town of Conil, where the photographs were taken. There will also be a limited edition book produced to illustrate the exhibition. This will be available from the 19th February.

Los Balcones is part of La Casa del Califa hotel and the exhibition runs from 19th February 2010, with a private view and will carry through until after Easter. The exhibition is being curated by James Stuart, MD of  Grupo Califa.

Location: La Califa, Plaza de España, 16,   Vejer de la Frontera,  11150  Cádiz. tel: 956 447 730

Pinhole Impressions 24 - waves breaking on rocks at Cala Puntalejo, Conil, in the south of Spain

Pinhole Impressions 24 - Cala Puntalejo, Conil, in the south of Spain

Pinhole Impressions 42 - Cala Puntalejo

Pinhole Impressions 42 - Cala Puntalejo, Conil, in the south of Spain

Pinhole Impressions 25 - Cala Puntalejo

Pinhole Impressions 25 - Cala Puntalejo, Conil, in the south of Spain

Cala Puntalejo, Conil, in the south of Spain

Pinhole Impressions 27 - Cala Puntalejo, Conil, in the south of Spain

Pinhole Impressions 26 - sunset at Puerto de Conil, in the south of Spain

Pinhole Impressions 26 - sunset at Puerto de Conil, in the south of Spain

Pinhole Impressions 50 - Cala Puntalejo, Conil, in the south of Spain

Pinhole Impressions 50 - Cala Puntalejo, Conil, in the south of Spain

Vistas and Views Exhibition – Will’s Art Warehouse, 30th January 2010 until 26th February 2010.

9 years, 9 months ago exhibitions, news, photography 0

In November 2007 I started experimenting with film again, after a break of several years. More specifically, I was testing a pinhole camera. Digital had become very much the norm for commercial work and I just had a hunch about the effects that  I could achieve using really simple equipment.

The black and white photographs I took  at RHS Wisley through the winter of 2007 and 2008 evolved into a project I called ‘Pinhole Impressions’. They illustrate trees and the effect of wind as the leaves begin to fall. This series of  images has just gone on show at Will’s Art Warehouse, London, as part of an exhibition called Vistas and Views. The work has been included with that of five other artists, who produce landscape work in various media – Nick AndrewNicole EtienneElaine JonesJonathan PocockAmanda Ralfe and Sarah Ross Thompson.

The two Tilia Tomentosa or Lime trees were the first taken in the series and have always been my favourites. I have been asked several times how difficult it was to blur the clouds in Photoshop. The answer is always met with disappointment  when I say the  images were shot in camera with no trickery –  it was a genuinely windy day! The only enhancement is good old fashioned dodge and burn – but on my computer, not in the darkroom!

The Pinhole Impressions series, numbers One to Six, were previously exhibited in the  International Garden Photographer of the year Exhibition at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in 2008 and at Wakehurst Place in 2009.

Will’s Art Warehouse – 180 Lower Richmond Road, Putney, London SW15 1LY England t: +44 (0)20 8246 4840

Pinhole Impressions, Tilia Tomentosa at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 2, Tilia Tomentosa at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 4, Acer Henryi at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 4, Acer Henryi at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 3 Lime tree or Tilia Tomentosa at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 3, Tilia Tomentosa at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 6 - Fagus Sylvatica Pendula or Weeping Beech at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 6 - Fagus Sylvatica Pendula at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 5, Poplar at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 5, Poplar at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 1, Poplar at RHS Wisley

Pinhole Impressions 1, Poplar at RHS Wisley

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